Freedom’s varieties

Over the next eight days, we celebrate freedom. For some, the invocation "next year in Jerusalem" has a very real meaning. This will, for example, be the first Seder in five years that Gilad Shalit has been free to celebrate in his homeland.

We can all share his family's - his nation's - joy. But this may be the last Pesach which Israelis are able to celebrate without a truly grave threat to their freedom - indeed, their very existence - hanging over them. For now, the Iranian nuclear weapon is an idea.

At some point very soon, however, it will become an unstoppable reality, unless the Iranian regime is either persuaded or forced to halt development. By this time next year that will have been decided one way or another. The idea of freedom for anyone in the region, let alone for Jews, is incompatible with such a weapon in the mullahs' hands.

Freedom has many meanings. For some of our countrymen and women, it seems that freedom of expression and thought are fine concepts, other than for Israelis - to whom they must be denied. On Saturday, a letter to the Guardian from 22 artistic types demanded that the Globe Theatre withdraw its invitation to Habima, the Israeli theatre company, to perform as part of the Globe to Globe Festival.

The event will host troupes from many countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Iraq, Oman, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam. All of these have well-catalogued human rights abuses. But there has been not a squeak of criticism from Emma Thompson, Richard Wilson and their fellow anti-Israel letter writers about the decision to invite the other theatre companies.

As we celebrate this festival of freedom, it really should not be too much to hope that the artists who want to exclude Habima for the crime of being Israeli might learn something not just from their peers who, rightly, have compared their attitide to book-burning, but also from Jewish teachings, which value freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas and dialogue. And on that note we wish all our readers a happy and healthy Pesach.

Last updated: 12:53pm, April 5 2012